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Portlock/Port Chatham Alaska

Port Chatham Alaska

Portlock Alaska is located in a remote area of the Kenai Peninsula in Alaska. Named after Capt. Nathanial Portlock of the Royal Navy who landed there in 1787. A U.S. Post Office was opened at Portlock in 1921. While this was primarily a cannery town at that point, there was also Chromite mining nearby at the mining site known as Chrome. Portlock-Chatham Bay was also the site of a Territorial Boarding School for children from the surrounding smaller fish-camps, mines and villages. After a series of unexplained events and deaths, the town was suddenly abandoned around 1949 and the Post Office closed in 1950. Many older residents of the nearby towns of Seldovia, Port Graham and Nanwalek are descendants of Portlock families and consider the Portlock and Chrome areas haunted.

‪In an April 15, 1973 issue of the Anchorage Daily News, a feature article told of the abandoned cannery town of Portlock near Port Chatham. The writer had learned the story during an evening spent with the school teacher and his wife at English Bay (Nanwalek) while on a boat trip.

The story is told:
“Portlock began its existence sometime after the turn of the century as a cannery town. In 1921, a post office was established there, and for a time the residents, mostly natives of Russian-Aleut mix, lived in peace with their picturesque mountain-and-sea setting.”

According to the Anchorage Daily News story, sometime in the beginning years of World War II, rumors began to seep along the Kenai Peninsula that things were not right in Portlock. Men from the cannery town would reportedly go up into the hills to hunt Dall sheep and bear, and never return. Worse yet, sometimes stories would circulate about mutilated bodies that were swept down into the lagoon, torn and dismembered in a way that bears could not, or would not, do.

“Tales were told of villagers tracking moose over soft ground. They would find giant, man-like tracks over 18 inches in length closing upon those of the moose, the signs of a short struggle where the grass had been matted down, then only the deep tracks of the manlike animal departing toward the high, fog-shrouded mountains …”

The article goes on to tell how the fed-up townfolk decided to move en-masse, and by 1950, the U.S. Post office had closed there.

Malania Helen Kehl, Nanwalek’s eldest resident in a recent article titled, Port Chatham Left to Spirits featured in the Homer Tribune recounts, "the ghostly story of how the village of Port Chatham came to be deserted; why the abandoned town was shunned, and those who once lived there vowed never to return."

According to the Homer Tribune article, "Malania was born Jan. 25, 1934 at Port Chatham, then a small village founded at the edge of a peaceful moorage... But when Malania was a baby, the family abruptly moved away from Chatham, leaving the house and every board of its frame behind."

“We left our houses and the school, and started all new here,” Malania said in a recent interview, speaking in her traditional Sugt’stun through translator Sally Ash. “There was plentiful land here for gardening and people. My parents built a house on the beach.”

What had frightened Malania’s parents hadn’t been a single event. Over a “long period of time,” a nantiinaq (Nan-te-nuk) – or big hairy creature – was reportedly terrorizing villagers. And Malania also told of the spirit of a woman dressed in draping black clothes that would come out of the cliffs.

“Her dress was so long she would drag it,” Malania said. “She had a very white face and would disappear back into the cliffs.”

"The goose-bumped terror felt when people encountered these spirits was nothing compared to what happened to Malania’s godfather, Andrew Kamluck. He was logging in 1931, when someone or something hit him over the head with a piece of log-moving equipment. The blow reportedly killed him instantly."

There are many more stories of strange happenings in this area. Beware if you visit.

The site is accessible only by boat or via bush-plane beach landing. Located near the head of Port Chatham just east of the abandoned mining town of Chrome. At present There is a fishing lodge operation near this site. It is reported that there remain mine tunnels, rusted cannery equipment and building foundations, and of course something strange in the hills.

Coordinates: N 59.13.330, W 151.44.583